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National Football League athletes have been the focus of much controversy in the national media for the head injuries that they often suffer as a result of the repeated impacts they endure while playing the game. However, little focus has been placed on the much younger athletes who also face serious head injuries while playing aggressive contact sports like football, boxing, or hockey. Just a few months ago, I wrote about a young boy who is now paralyzed after he was tragically punched in the face during a youth boxing match. This tragedy is not unique–in fact, according to a recent study, more than half a million kids, mainly young athletes, went to the emergency room for concussions between 2001 and 2005.

The study, published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics, looked at concussions in children over a span of ten years. Of the approximately 500,000 ER visits for concussions, more than half were related to sports injuries. Although, ironically, the number of youths involved in sports has decreased over the past ten years as the number of serious head injuries has increased–indicating that youth sports have become increasingly more violent over the years. Indeed, the researchers noted that youth football has the highest incidence of concussions than any other sport, but girls have a higher concussions rate than boys. This last piece of evidence suggests that girls wear less protective gear than boys, making them more susceptible to serious injuries.

Overall, parents shouldn’t pull their kids out of youth sports. Instead, the researchers suggest that parents should be smarter about prevention and make sure their children wear helmets, pads, and other protective gear.

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